While the headlines from just a few months ago were prophesying a doomsday for retailers across the country during the holiday season, expect something a little bit different this time around as retailers ditch tired promotional strategies to provide a more complete customer experience.
No one can be blamed for predicting the end of retail when faced with statistics such as over 9,000 store closures anticipated in 2017. Also, as we head toward the end of the year, it’s clear that 2017 has more retail bankruptcies than 2016. There are also several indicators that even though store traffic and sales have been in a continuing decline, the dips are much less drastic than in previous years.
The "retail apocalypse" was felt by malls all over the country with traffic decreasing an average of 8% per month since January 2015. But, shopping malls still attract the most foot traffic from shoppers looking for an efficient shopping experience.
So, what is expected from shopping malls this holiday season?
A Rise in Pop-up Shops
According to EE‘s Britain’s Pop-Up Retail Economy report, the UK‘s pop-up industry alone is estimated to be worth £2.3 billion. What's more, the recent Halloween success of Spirit pop-up stores in malls - 1,300 to be exact - across the US spells a significant change in the retail industry. It’s clear that shoppers are responding well to the notion of the pop-up store, and if the success of Spirit is anything to go by, we expect to see an increase in temporary shops in malls nationwide this holiday season. Pop-up stores not only offer shoppers a novel shopping experience, but they also offer retailers a chance to test concepts and branch out to new demographics before committing to wide-scale expansion.
Black Friday has come early. Many major retailers, like Target, Best Buy and Amazon have already introduced "door busters" to get a head start on holiday spending. That should suit this year's shopper, who surveys predict will be buying early this season.
That said, not only will there be an abundance of promotions, offers and packed deals this holiday season, but with the sharp rise of mobile shopping, many brick and mortar stores will launch apps linked to their campaigns offering exclusive store content, mobile-only offers, buy-online pick-up in store incentives and other deals that bridge the gap between traditional and online shopping.
Experienced-Based and Artisanal-Product Stores
To appeal to younger shoppers, especially Millennials, many stores have reformatted around a more experiential shopping experience. Shopping mall staples like Sephora and Williams-Sonoma program their stores with engaging activities perfectly suited for their best customers. For these chains, the physical store is a gathering place for their community.
As digital signage and fixtures have become more affordable, the physical store is fast becoming a unique form of experiential media, giving shoppers another dimension of interaction with a brand, products and other customers while they're browsing the aisles. This holiday season expect stores to coordinate immersive retail experiences with customers' mobile devices. This marriage provides invaluable insights into shoppers as they interact with various touch points throughout the store, tapping into a whole new level of customer connectivity.
Also, the change in traditional retail and the purging of stores that weren’t able to compete in the digital age came with an influx of new stores catering to a different demand. New generations of shoppers have shown a preference for craft and artisanal stores as well as experience-based offerings. Shoppers who avoid going to the mall throughout the rest of the year will see some dramatic changes this season. What used to be a Radio Shack is now a store dedicated to beard grooming; what used to be a GameStop is now a wellness store and yoga studio.
A Complete Change in the Mall Layout and Function
Perhaps one of the biggest changes we can expect to start seeing this holiday shopping season is a complete change in how our local malls traditionally operate. The function and scale of malls have generally started to shift to center around a single purpose. Previously, malls were meant for shopping in a variety of stores with a food court or two strewn about to keep people from leaving due to hunger. Today, we’re seeing malls cater to a specific experience and purpose. For example, Eataly opened as a marketplace with food serving as the anchor for shoppers with this specific interest. In the spirit of high fashion outlet malls, look for other multi-store retail experiences around fitness, parenting, gaming and crafts.
An Ongoing Retail Transformation
Retail has experienced a transformation over the last decade. 2017 is one of the years where it finally will be possible to see what the shopping mall landscape may look like for awhile.
Shoppers are going to experience a first-hand transformation of shopping malls in America. The same malls shoppers visited with their parents as kids are going to look completely different in their purpose and function, and if the pressure of competition yields any positive results, a more pleasant shopping experience.